Our Legal Partnership working in international relation often receives inquiries by foreign citizens with issues related to the acquisition of legacies in Hungary, and also by Hungarian citizens with issues related to the acquisition of legacies abroad.
The most common question that arises first is where (in which state) the probate proceedings should take place, especially if the testator did not die in the state of which s/he was a citizen, or the assets or part of the assets left after the deceased are not located in the state in which the testator died. Regulation (EU) No. 650/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council entered into force on 17 August 2015 provides guidance primarily in such cases. Under the Regulation, probate proceedings are to be conducted in the state in which the testator had his or her habitual residence at the time of death, regardless of his or her nationality. In case of doubt, it is necessary to examine which state the testator actually had a close relationship with at the time of his or her death and immediately before, where s/he lived habitually. Thus, it may be possible to conduct the probate proceedings not in the state in which the testator was officially registered according to his or her identity documents, if s/he has been living in another state for a long time habitually. Thus it can happen that in the case of a German citizen who has moved to Hungary as a pensioner and has been living here, the probate proceedings including the objects of the estate in Germany will be conducted by a Hungarian notary public, as well as regarding the property located in Italy belonging to a Hungarian citizen living in Hungary. Obviously, the probate proceedings must be conducted in accordance with the law of the state where the probate proceedings take place, so in the above two examples according to the regulations of the Hungarian law of inheritance. However, it is also possible to specify in the testator’s will the law of the state of which s/he is a citizen as the applicable law and jurisdiction. In the latter case, the provision of the will shall have to be complied with, regardless of the other state in which the testator had his or her habitual residence at the time of his or her death.
Although the present case concerns European Union legislation, the provisions of the Regulation also apply in certain respects to third-country citizens and to people who have their place of residence there. For example, in a non-EU member state, i. e. in a third country, probate proceedings may be conducted according to the relevant rules there, if the testator was a citizen of that third country or if s/he was not a citizen but had been living there for at least five years prior to the commencement of the probate proceedings.
BALÁZS & KOVÁTSITS Legal Partnership